Social Media for Brick & Mortar Businesses

Start Small.

It took radio 38 years to reach 50 million views, 13 years for TV, four for the Internet. Facebook got there in nine months. The iPod got there in a couple days. People under 30 don’t use email; it’s for old people. Only 18% of TV ads generate profit. How do brick and mortar businesses keep up? Social media isn’t optional anymore. Here’s seven quick ideas to help you.

We’re out of the Technology and Information Ages and into the Participation Age. The hallmark of this age is “sharing”, which is why social media is so big. It allows us to share on a multitude of levels. It is a lot less expensive than advertising and when done well, is much more effective. How do we get our arms around it?

Don’t panic. Social media is just another communications medium, like radio, TV, fax and email. Except it is much more interactive and participative; like the phone, except at your leisure (you don’t have to answer right away).

Here are a few quick principles I use dealing with social media:

1) Pick just one or two entry points that can be highly integrated, that can push traffic to each other, and go deep. In 2007 I picked blogging and Twitter. I would highly recommend that you blog (some are questioning that these days, I think it is still by far the best social media), and then interact with people on Twitter about their interests first, and your blog second and only occasionally. Or you can pair up Facebook and Google+ (some people use it to blog now). Or Pinterest and Google+, etc. Whatever you do, start small so you can actually participate and learn, not spam. You can broaden out later if you find you have the bandwidth, but stay focused until you are sure.

2) Become the expert in something. Again, BLOG IF YOU CAN!! It’s by far the best way to use social media to become an expert. Write comments on other people’s blogs, and offer your material to others to repurpose it.

3) Be INTERESTED, not INTERESTING (be interesting as a result of being interested). Example – join existing conversations on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. Support others in their comments and blogs, answer q’s, and eventually they will want to know what you have to say and will visit your blog or community group.

4) Join a community, don’t just crash it to sell something. See #3 above. After you have established yourself as someone who can contribute to others’ communities, maybe start your own Google+ hangout or other forum on Facebook, etc. Learn first, then invite your existing friends to join you.

5) Build relationships, don’t sell things. Build a network, don’t do networking! SERVE, DON’T SELL. Do NOT use social media to attempt to get a zillion new friends! All the research shows you should target your social media at your existing raving fans. SERVE them, and they will bring you new readers and new customers.

6) Read “Rework” by Fried and Hannson. Read Seth Godin’s blog &’s blog and find others that you respect. See how they provide something of value. Don’t mimic their content, just follow their lead – serve others with interesting content.

7) Search for local relationships and develop them online as well as off. Connect, then offer offline opportunities. About 85-90% of all conversations about a product start off line and then move online. And again, starting with local relationships allows you to use social media to support your existing friends, who will then bring you more viewers and customers. If you go after herds of new people with your content, your friends will smell that and walk away.

Don’t see yourself doing this? There is a growing number of credible people who can help you by ghost-blogging, and by managing your social media. I would never let anyone else manage my personal Twitter account, and I do all my own blogging. If you are going to hire others, make sure the public knows it’s not you – be authentic. Your company can be known as the blogger, even if you aren’t.

There are a bunch of other things you can do, but if you start with these, you’ll stumble into most of the other things that would be helpful as well. Happy blogging!